20 December 2021

How to cope with a new disability

older man in wheelchair on laptop

When you obtain a new disability, it can be a traumatic experience, and some will grieve over what they feel they have lost. This is entirely natural as a disability brings along a lot of changes and can transform your life. To help those in this position, this article offers tips for how to cope when you develop a disability. Whether you have developed a condition as a teenager or have found yourself browsing stairlift prices due to an accident later in life, whatever the case may be, read on below to discover coping mechanisms.

Give yourself time to adjust

When you develop a disability it’s vitally important that you give yourself time to adjust to your new circumstances. It can be incredibly frustrating that your life has changed in this way, but you must be patient with yourself, allow yourself to learn how to live with your disability and navigate the world around you. It won’t happen overnight, so patience is key.

Rachel Kable, a mindfulness coach, helps people master the art of patience and shares that even something as simple as deep breathing can be a good way to start: “This might sound simple, but to be honest, it’s probably the strategy I use most to cope with feelings of impatience. Taking deep breaths can have a calming effect and for me, it often dampens the intensity of impatience and allows me to do things like let go of should statements and practise mindfulness. It gives me the clarity I need to identify impatience and to deal with it effectively.”

Accept that life won’t be the same   

man in a wheelchair  

It’s important to accept that your life isn’t going to be the same as it was before. As hard as this can be, by accepting your new circumstances and that there is no quick fix to bring your old life back, you can begin to embrace the life before you. Just because it won’t be the same, however, doesn’t mean that your life is over. Think about what you do have, focus on the possibilities, and try your best to practice gratitude – even if that currently seems impossible.

Life coach Makeda Pennycooke shares the following about how gratitude can help us remain hopeful: “Gratitude shifts our attention away from what’s going wrong and helps us see all the things going well in our life. Over time, this creates a more positive mindset. We can more easily find the good even on the hard days.”

READ ALSO: Tips for Christmas with disabled children

Let out the negativity

Letting out the negativity that you are understandably feeling can also be a big help. Allow yourself to vent your frustrations, express your sorrow, and give yourself a chance to mourn. Grieving over a disability is completely natural as many experience feelings of profound loss of a life that once was. So, give yourself time to feel these feelings and don’t try to suppress your emotions.

This is something that Disability blogger Curb Free with Cory Lee shares as a good first step to life with a disability: “Start by grieving. You truly did lose something. Not just your physical health either, but the life you’ve always lived, and some plans you may have had for the future. Don’t try to put on a brave face for others right now, just let it out. Give yourself some time alone and just feel whatever your body is naturally experiencing.”  

Don’t let stress defeat you

woman deep breathing

Disabilities inevitably bring feelings of stress and a new disability in your life can be a particularly stressful time. Try, however, to not let it defeat you. Accept that it will be there, that there will be challenges and trials but don’t let it rule your life. Life with a disability is challenging enough and giving into stress will only make things more difficult. Look for ways to relieve stress, embrace the hobbies and passions that you can still enjoy, no matter how trivial, and look for ways to unwind and relax.

Disability blogger Sassy from the site Thinking Out Loud, shares that cultivating a peaceful home can be a great way to relieve stress as a disabled person: “Home is our refuge from the world, a place we go to relax and unwind and recover from all of the stresses of daily life. So, it makes sense that our surroundings need to be as pleasant as possible. Declutter and get rid of anything you no longer need, invest in good storage so that you’re not surrounded in clutter.”

READ ALSO: The benefits of creating moments of stillness in your day

Love yourself

This is advice that many can benefit from but those with a new disability should certainly pay attention. Love yourself, for you are worthy of love, despite whatever disability you might have. Your disability hasn’t changed that you are worthy of love. Learning to love yourself and cherishing who you are, disability and all, will help you to cope and adjust to your circumstances. Your condition doesn’t have to define you. Remember that your value, dignity and worth as a person is unquestionable and doesn’t come from the way your body works or how your mind operates.

Louise, who has scoliosis and runs the blog Life with Scoliosis, has shared this insight regarding her initial diagnosis: “When I was first diagnosed with scoliosis, I truly hated myself. I hated my back. I hated how it looked. I felt different to everyone else. It was a difficult thing to go through as a teenager. This has led to huge self-esteem issues, even now as an adult. I used to hide my back and body under baggy clothes and avoid any activities where my back would be on show.

“If you have scoliosis, please never feel ashamed. Your back and body are amazing. Being different isn’t always a bad thing. Now I am proud of my back, my scar and the strength it represents.”

Don’t dwell on the past

woman in a wheelchair

Dwelling on the past can be a dangerous habit to get into. The past has gone, and we can’t change what happened. It’s understandable that we will miss what was or be angry about the past, but this isn’t healthy and will accomplish nothing after a certain point. After an initial grieving period, try your best to focus on the present and find things to enjoy in daily life while also looking forward to the future. That might seem impossible, but these can be little things that bring pleasure such as hobbies, a day out, a favourite TV show, the love of a grandchild, and the support of a parent.

Take control

Having a new disability dropped on us can make people feel helpless without any control over what is happening to us. To counteract this feeling, it’s important to try and take back control of your life as much as you can. After all, there are things that you can control. You can control how your disability is managed and treated, you can control the routine of your day, the way your house is run and organised, the friendships you keep and the decisions you make going forward. Setting goals and targets can also help in this regard. There is no better feeling than setting a goal and achieving it. This could be related to your disability, career, hobby or anything else. Write some targets down and commit yourself to complete them, taking control over your future.

READ ALSO: What are the benefits of occupational therapy?

Talk to others

person using laptop

Last but certainly not least is making sure that you talk to others in your situation. It can be easy to feel alone when a new disability is foisted on us, that no one understands. While it might be true that your family or friends don’t understand what you are going through, there are people who do. Online you can find forums and support networks, on Facebook there are groups dedicated to those who share your disability. These are places where you can talk and share with others who are going through the same thing, allowing you to find support, receive advice, and share your feelings with someone who truly understands.

While your family and friends might not share your disability, remember that they do love you, so don’t dismiss the notion of talking with them and expressing how you feel. By doing so, you can unburden yourself and allow your loved ones to learn how they can help and be there for you.

Tips for coping with a new disability

  • Give yourself time to adjust
  • Accept that life won’t be the same
  • Let out the negativity
  • Don’t let stress defeat you
  • Love yourself
  • Don’t dwell on the past
  • Take control
  • Talk to others

Hopefully, the above tips and advice prove useful and give you a few tactics and mechanisms for coping with your new situation. For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to visit our news page.